By deciding yesterday to defy the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and enforce an order banning Globo TV journalist Julio Ernesto Alvarado from working as a journalist, a judge has dealt a slap in the face to freedom of information in Honduras, Reporters Without Borders said.
The decision came at the very moment that the Commission and the special rapporteur on freedom of expression are visiting Honduras. It was taken by a judge responsible for executing sentences, who tried to notify Alvarado yesterday that the ban was going into force, but was unable to reach him.
The order banning Alvarado from working for 16 months was issued by the supreme court on 9 December 2013 in a defamation case which the former dean of the economics faculty at the Autonomous National University of Honduras bought against him for reporting supreme court charges against her on his programme “Mi Nación.”
Noting that Alvarado’s “grave and urgent” situation could result in “irreparable harm” to him, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asked the Honduran authorities on 5 November to stay implementation of the order and not prevent him from working until it had ruled on the substance of the case.
“We firmly condemn this Honduran attempt to ignore the stay requested by the Commission,” said Claire San Filippo, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk.
“Trying to notify Alvarado of the ban on working as a journalist in defiance of the Commission’s ruling at very moment that it is visiting Honduras constitutes a grave affront to the country’s international obligations. It is unfortunately typical of a government that is increasingly inclined to gag critical media. The authorities must reverse this decision and comply with the stay.”
The prevailing climate in Honduras is one of news control and media harassment, with opposition and community media, in particular, being subjected to judicial persecution. The victims include such opposition media as Radio Uno, Radio Globo and Canal 36, and community radio stations such as Radio Coco Dulce and La Voz de Zacate Grande.
Honduras has been one of the western hemisphere’s most dangerous countries for media personnel ever since a coup d’état in June 2009. Journalists are threatened, attacked and murdered with almost complete impunity.
According to the National Commission for Human Rights (CONADEH), 91 per cent of the 47 murders of journalists monitored since 2003 have remained unpunished.
Honduras is ranked 129th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.